Farrell sets tone in opening address
Red Sox's new manager stresses professionalism in team meeting
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It was about 8:30 ET on Friday morning when 59 players joined the top three members of ownership, every key member of the front office and all other uniformed personnel in the annual meeting to open Spring Training.
Though several people spoke -- including owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, president/CEO Larry Lucchino and general manager Ben Cherington -- this was very much John Farrell's time.
It marked the dawn of a new era for the Red Sox in which Farrell let everyone know what he expected.
"It was very positive, and that's what it's all about," said new right fielder Shane Victorino. "It's about creating that positive atmosphere around here, creating that winning environment and preparing ourselves to go out there and have some fun in the meantime."
Farrell's top message was to be professional, but he said it in a way that caught the attention of all those in the room -- even those who are above Farrell on the organizational masthead.
"I thought it was actually quite inspiring," said Werner. "I think that he is a leader and he was very articulate about his expectations. He is just the right guy, I think, for this group. There were a lot of new people in that room. We've got seven new free agents, so I think it was an introduction to his philosophy. I said to somebody afterwards [that] I was ready to put on a uniform."
This was the second straight season a new manager introduced himself to the team prior to the first full-squad workout. But the Red Sox, to a man, seem thoroughly confident they have the right guy at the helm this time.
"There's no wishy-washy, 'Should we do this? Or should we do that?' type of thing," said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "Everything is, 'This is what we're going to do. This is how it's going.' He's got our back. You've got to trust him. That's what you want as a player -- you want to be able to trust your manager, and it's been great. There's been a lot of high energy, a lot of positivity."
Let's face it, that's exactly what the Red Sox need. Terry Francona's mostly successful eight-year run had a rocky end in 2011. The Bobby Valentine one-year experiment has been acknowledged by one and all as a mistake.
And now here comes Farrell, a link to the Francona years (he was pitching coach from 2007-10) but also a fresh leadership voice.
"He commands respect," said Lucchino. "He also has a skill set that's particularly important to the success of this team -- his pitching expertise. He's an honest guy. I think he'll be an outstanding Red Sox manager."
With a sturdy physical presence and a voice that can boom through a room, Farrell should have no problem getting through to his players -- a mix of holdovers desperate to emerge from the disappointment of the last two seasons and newcomers eager to help restore the Red Sox to prominence.
What stands out most about Farrell so far?
"His confidence," said third baseman Will Middlebrooks. "He comes in here and he's willing to work with us not only individually, but as a group. He's here to win and we can tell."
Though Farrell still holds clout with the players who were part of his first regime in Boston, he has vowed not to rest on those laurels.
"The message is different," Farrell said. "It's broader, because you're dealing with everybody on the roster. But at the same time, it has to still be specific to be clear about what we're trying to get accomplished while we're down here. I can tell you it's an honor to stand up in front of that group with this uniform on. I can't say it was met with trepidation or anxiety, but it's a good start."
You have to go back a ways to remember the Red Sox getting off to a good start.
The team stumbled the first couple of weeks in Francona's last two seasons. Boston had a 1-5 opening road trip last year under Valentine.
But under Farrell, perhaps the Red Sox can regain the winning mentality their organization was defined by not so long ago.
"To a man in that room, everyone associates the name Red Sox with winning," said Farrell. "That came out in conversations thoughout the offseason. There's been an eagerness to get back down here, get started, to rewrite that script. There were different degrees of embarrassment, different degrees of knowing that what went on here last year isn't the norm, or isn't somewhat the expectation or allowable to a certain degree. I'm confident of that mind-set."